Even with hundreds of lunch options around Tokyo Station, Ippei is a clear favorite with many office workers in the area. Hearty, solid, inexpensive set lunches of Japanese favourites that arrive within 5 minutes - what’s not to like?
角煮丼 Kakuni-don - braised pork belly rice bowl with an egg, and a smear of Japanese mustard. - image © Florentyna Leow
According to the official website, the Marunouchi district is home to around 230,000 office workers. Add in all the casual commuters, passersby, and tourists who end up in the area visiting Tokyo Station and the surrounding attractions, and you have an area that’s heaving with people every single day. That could mean any number of things, but the first thought that comes to mind is how much food you need to feed that many people every single day.
The entrance fo Ippei. - image © Florentyna Leow
It’s no surprise, then, that there’s such a huge concentration of restaurants in the Tokyo Station and Nihonbashi areas. What’s more, staying in business is competitive. It’s all about cost-performance, or “cospa” as they say in Japan. The basic winning formula for an everyday lunch is good cooking that's good value for money. Anything else is a no-go for the office worker short on time - and money, given the stagnating salaries these days.
A brief escape from the office. - image © Florentyna Leow
A favorite with the local salarypeople in Nihonbashi is Ippei, an oden restaurant and izakaya tucked away in the basement of the STARTS Yaesu Chuo Building a short walk away from Tokyo Station. Everyone under the age of 60 there was obviously an office worker - white collared shirts, black trousers, ties, modest skirts and blouses in neutral tones.
Oden - in this case, several different kinds of processed fishcakes in broth. This came with the lunch set. - image © Florentyna Leow
Oden is hard to describe succinctly to someone who’s never eaten it before, but I think of it as “things simmered in broth.” Specifically, a light soy-spiked dashi broth. The ingredients being simmered vary and range from eggs to daikon to processed fishcakes of all kinds, and you call any of those ingredients, singly or together, ‘oden.’ It’s the self-service soupy stuff you see in convenience stores near the cash register when the weather takes a colder turn. Though it’s commonly a winter dish, there are restaurants like Ippei which serve it year-round.
The lunch menu. Nothing is in English, but everything has photos. Note that 牛すじ gyusuji refers to beef cartilage/tendons - there’s beef tendon curry, and a limited number of beef tendon rice bowls. - image © Florentyna Leow
While Ippei has an extensive izakaya menu, you can only order a la carte during the day. From 11:15am to 1:30pm, it’s all set lunches. The oden set lunch is reputedly the most popular, though anything else you order will come with some oden. Just point to any of the photos on the menu that look the most appealing, and it’ll arrive within 5 - 8 minutes.
The braised pork belly rice bowl set for JPY950. It comes with oden, pickles, and miso soup. - image © Florentyna Leow
It’s no gourmet destination, but Ippei's set lunches are straightforward, unchallenging, and cost less than JPY1,000 per person. Nothing here requires you to think deeply about what you’re eating. The oden is surprisingly delicious - nothing overcooked (this happens frequently) and in a delicious sweet-salty broth that’s good enough to finish drinking. Their food is the kind of hearty lunch you look forward to after being cooped up in the office all morning, and it’s the kind of food that will help you make it through the rest of the day.
Pre-breaking the egg. - image © Florentyna Leow
The best part about Ippei is the lack of queues. It’s a capacious enough restaurant that you won’t see lines of diners like in Tokyo Station a few minutes walk away, but the food is on par with what you’ll find at most of the restaurants in the station. Turnover is fast, and the constant stream of office workers coming in and out means you don’t need to rush through your meal, because everyone else already is.
The staircase to the basement of STARTS building, if arriving from above-ground. - image © Florentyna Leow
The worst part: while the situation has improved in recent years, many office workers in Japan still smoke like chimneys - no doubt to cope with all the stress. That means that there are places like Ippei still allow smoking. But it’s only really a problem if you end up too near a diner who smokes.
Exit 23 from the Yaesu underground shopping mall. - image © Florentyna Leow
Directions: Ippei is accessible via exit 23 of the Yaesu underground shopping mall. Go through the doors as above, turn right, go up the stairs and through another set of doors without going above ground.
A giraffe statue with a crown at the entrance to the STARTS building. - image © Florentyna Leow
Or, if you’re walking above ground from the Yaesu Central Exit, look for the giraffe statue at the front of the building and head underground.
Name in Japanese:
おでん 和食 一平 日本橋店
B1, STARTS Yaesu Chuo Building, 3-4-10, Nihombashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 103-0027
〒103-0027 東京都中央区日本橋3-4-10 スターツ八重洲中央ビルB1
Monday - Friday Lunch: 11:15am - 1:30pm
Dinner: 5:00pm - 10:30pm
Saturday 4:00pm - 9:00pm
Subway: 3-minute walk from Exit B3 of Nihonbashi Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza line, or 5-minute walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Central Exit
:: Read customer reviews of IPPEI on TripAdvisor
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